Turkey strikes Kurdish targets in response to Ankara bomb
Published 14/03/2016 | 21:04
Turkey has lashed out at Kurdish targets, bombing military positions in northern Iraq and rounding up dozens of militants at home after a suicide car bombing in Ankara.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there were "strong indications" that Sunday's attack was carried out by the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
Mr Davutoglu added that authorities had detained 11 people directly connected to the suicide bombing near a line of bus stops that killed 37 people.
DNA tests are under way to identify the bomber and another body believed to be that of a person who assisted, he said, while a senior government official has said the bomber was a woman.
"There are very serious, almost-certain indications that point to the separatist terror organisation," Mr Davutoglu said, referring to the PKK.
The attack further complicated Turkey's place in the region as it battles a host of enemies across its borders including the Syrian government, Kurdish rebels in both Iraq and Syria, and the Islamic State group, even after being forced to absorb 2.7 million refugees from the conflict.
Turkey is also battling the PKK, a Kurdish group fighting for autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for three decades. A fragile peace process broke down in July. Turkey blames the PKK, saying it was inspired by the success of the Kurdish militia forces in Syria against IS in the city of Kobani and elsewhere. The PKK blames Turkey for failing to deliver on promises.
More than 200 people have died in five suicide bombings in Turkey since July that were blamed either on the Kurdish rebels or IS. Sunday's attack was the second suicide bombing in the capital: a February 17 attack for which a PKK offshoot claimed responsibility killed 29 people.
Turkey considers the PKK and the Kurdish militia in Syria to be one and the same, and has been pressing its US allies to stop helping the Syrian Kurds. Washington considers the PKK a terrorist organisation but has backed the Kurdish militia in Syria, which has been effective in fighting IS.
Both the US and Turkey have generally good relations with the Kurds in northern Iraq; Monday's air strikes in northern Iraq targeted PKK bases rather than installations of the Iraqi Kurds.
Nine F-16s and two F-4 jets raided 18 PKK positions, including the Qandil mountains, where the group's leadership is based, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Ammunition depots, bunkers and shelters were among the targets.
Police carried out raids in the southern city of Adana, detaining 38 suspected PKK rebels, while 15 suspected Kurdish militants were detained in Istanbul, the agency reported. In addition, authorities were searching for 10 suspects connected to the female bomber, deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said.
Turkey already had plans for large-scale operations against Kurdish militants. Anadolu said an operation in Nusaybin, on the border with Syria, began on Monday, while tanks were deployed for another operation in the town of Yuksekova, near the border with Iraq. Authorities also imposed a curfew in the city of Sirnak, near the Iraqi border, signalling the military was preparing an offensive there as well.
Mr Davutoglu vowed that Turkey's struggle against the PKK would continue until the group is wiped out.
"After (the links) to the terror organisation were determined, our armed forces conducted a comprehensive operation in northern Iraq. Our struggle against the terror points in Nusaybin and Yuksekova are continuing," he said. "We will not shy away from taking the necessary steps."